A convicted murderer in Israel is set to become a millionaire through his tech company, which is expected to go public on the Tel Aviv stock exchange.
Harel Hershtik planned and executed a murder when he was 20, shooting his victim, Yaakov Sela, in the head and burying the body.
Hershtik met Sela, a snake trapper with a circle of young fans, when he was 14.
They initially had a strong connection but it later developed into a “mutual hate and loathing”, according to court documents.
Hershtik said he felt uneasy with the way Sela treated women and in 1996, Sela discovered that Hershtik had stolen more than £12,000 from him.
Rather than involving the police, the pair agreed that Hershtik would pay him back double.
Hershtik planned to drive Sela around Israeli banks, duping him into thinking he was getting the money together, but on the drive, he pretended he needed to throw up before Sela pulled the car over.
That is when Hershtik’s accomplice shot Sela three times and handed the gun to Hershtik, who shot his victim in the head at close range.
The pair put the body in the car and buried it in Grove Heights, where it was discovered weeks later by hikers.
Hershtik’s mother was also convicted of several crimes, including for trying to thwart a police complaint by Sela’s mother.
From stealing thousands of pounds to completing two doctorates
Almost 26 years later, Hershtik expressed his remorse for the crime during an interview with the Associated Press and his business partners use him as a successful example of rehabilitation.
During his long prison sentence, Hershtik finished two doctorates in maths and chemistry, married three times and founded 31 companies, selling six of them.
He is the vice-president of strategy and technology at Scentech Medical, which he founded while still in jail in 2018 and is now set to go public.
Scantech is a tech product that can detect certain diseases through a breath test and it is waiting for regulatory approval, to allow a merger with NextGen Biomed, which trades on the Tel Aviv stock exchange.
The merger would, according to Hershtik, value the company at £204m and he said he has raised more than £20m in funding in the last two years through private investors.
Israeli law doesn’t prohibit prisoners from doing business, but Hershtik faced a number of hurdles, including limited internet access.
“You are limited by reality. You’re in jail,” he said.
“You’re running a company. You can’t run it from jail yourself. You have to rely on other people to go talk, do contracts, deals.”
Three failed marriages and a stabbing
Hershtik installed chief executives to run the day-to-day activities of his companies and he had to get documents read to him over the phone.
Although he managed to become a successful businessman while behind bars, he said that he was stabbed by two Arab inmates after being caught up in a plot to catapult a severed pig’s head with a Quran in its mouth into Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque.
He said he suggested the plot to two Jewish nationalists who he met in prison but said he was being hypothetical.
Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security agency, caught wind of the plan and enlisted Hershtik as an informant and when the Arab inmates found out about his work with the agency, they stabbed him, he said.
He was also married and divorced three times in prison.
In 2021, a parole board found that Hershtik had been rehabilitated and was no longer a danger to society, placing him under nightly house arrest from 11pm to 6am.
He also has to wear a tracking device and is banned from leaving Israel.
“The remorse that I felt for what I did would become a beacon for my path forward,” Hershtik said.
“This company was built because I wanted to do something better, to leave the world a better place.”